Western MA Non-Foliage Ride

As the predicted 30% chance of rain today looks to be 100% (at least, as I look out my window that’s how it seems), I’m glad I opted to bump this day trip forward one day to battle unseasonably cold temperatures instead of the rain. But the cold was… well, cold. We had our first killing frost last night. It takes a while for temperatures to warm up from that in the morning. More importantly, I didn’t want to ride into any icy patches on the road. I waited until about 9:30 when it approached 40, put on a lot of layers, and hit the road.

Did I mention it was cold? The PC800’s bodywork is smaller than the Silverwing’s, so I’m not quite as protected. Still, after some hot coffee, I headed out Route 20 to skirt around the south side of Worcester. As I passed through one of the Brookfields (East, West, I don’t remember which) I came across the scene of someone else preparing for a very cold ride – but in a hot air balloon rather than a motorcycle.

After that, I followed the recommendation of the GPS to hop a few back roads up to Route 9, and then on to Amherst. My first stop was UMass Amherst to visit a friend of mine, which also gave me the opportunity to warm up a bit. Parking on any college campus is an adventure, at best, yet I was able to slide the bike into an area unfit for a car and technically not legal, but still very much out of the way and not blocking anyone or anything. After hanging out for a while and having lunch, I hit the road again, without any friendly note from campus police awaiting me.

It had warmed up to the 50s by then, so riding was a bit more comfortable. I made my way up Route 116 to Deerfield, then took 116 west all the way to Adams. This was my favorite part of the ride. With the layers I was wearing, the temperature was fine, traffic was light, and for the first time I could really see what the PC800 could do. It can do a whole lot more than I’m willing to attempt on a public road. The bike isn’t exactly flingable through the turns, but it easily takes a good set at turn-in, rolls predictably through the apex, and there’s plenty of power to accelerate out. I don’t know what people are talking about when they say the PC800 is underpowered. Sure, it has a lot less power than other sport touring bikes with 1100 or 1200 motors. That’s to be expected. But it’s plenty of power for me, even with a lightly slipping clutch (which, as long as I waited for full clutch engagement, wouldn’t slip even under full power if I did it right and the oil was up to temperature). Of course, I’m running with little cargo and no passenger, but that’s how most of my riding is anyway. I finally understand what the “sport” part of “sport tourer” means. I’ve said for years that I won’t get a sport bike, because I’ll be too tempted to see what it can do and get myself into trouble. The PC800 is no sport bike, but it’s sporty enough that I found myself validating these predictions from time to time.

On my way into Adams, it seemed as though I’d jumped through time. The colors on the trees were far from peak at home. They got closer to peak as I passed through Amherst. But here in the Berkshires, the leaves were already gone, leaving only the brown leafless trees rather than the vibrant colors I remember from going to college in this area. Hence, the “non-foliage” description of my ride. While it’s true that I was doing this primarily for a good bike ride rather than general sightseeing, enjoying the scenery is always nice, and I’m quite happy to pull over and enjoy it from time to time (not to mention snap pictures to share with you). But without the scenery, there wasn’t much reason to stop. I had considered going up Mt. Greylock again, partly for the views and partly to really put the PC800 through its paces. But I decided against it, since the colors were gone, and it would be a bit colder on the mountain. As a result I stopped in North Adams just long enough to take a picture of the non-foliage, then kept going.

I joined up with Route 2, a.k.a. the Mohawk Trail, to make my way back east toward home. I paused at the hairpin turn heading out of North Adams to enjoy the view. As I was preparing to leave, a view found me – a silver AC Cobra going up the hill. I don’t know if it was a genuine Shelby Cobra or a modern Factory Five kit, but it was pretty, and made nice noises. I slipped in behind the Cobra on our way up the hill. We zoomed along together pretty well briefly, until we caught up with a slow moving minivan ahead of us. There are no passing zones, and too much oncoming traffic to consider even an illegal pass, so my favorite part of the Mohawk Trail, from North Adams to Charlemont, was spent in an ever growing conga line of slow moving traffic. The parts where I could see further ahead revealed that even if I did pass the Cobra and the minivan, I’d just catch up to even more slow moving traffic very quickly. The leaves were gone, but clearly the leaf peepers were still out in force.

A familiar looking car caught up to me just after crossing the French King bridge – a local police cruiser. I was relieved that I had taken the time to get the bike stickered last Monday. I would’ve still been within the 14 days to get it inspected, but the distinct lack of a sticker on my plate would’ve likely gotten me pulled over – not ticketed, but delayed. As it was, we just cruised along for a while. I wasn’t worried about speeding here, since I was still stuck in traffic that only occasionally went as fast as the limit. I let him pass me in one of the few climbing lanes available, and he went his own way soon after.

As we proceeded at a reduced pace, it started to get cold again as I approached Erving. Really? So early? It was only about 3pm, yet the sun was well on its way down, and the chill of the morning began to return. At the Route 2 and 2A split, I took 2A, since I didn’t feel like riding superslab (especially in the cold), and hopped Route 112 south to Barre. Then I picked up the western end of Route 62 and followed it all the way home.

I give the trip mixed reviews as far as rides go. The route, as far as the roads are concerned, is great. This is very much the same trip I took in May, minus the cruise up Mt. Greylock. The less good parts were the cold, the slow traffic on the Mohawk Trail, and to a lesser extent the lack of foliage to view. Oh yeah – and the cold. As for the bike, it’s everything I’d hoped it would be. The bike handled it well, and even got 56mpg on the way. I was feeling the long ride a little bit when I got home, but that’s likely just a combination of the cold and not being quite used to this bike’s riding position just yet.

It’s a bittersweet note that this might be my last day trip of the year. It might not be, but if the weather keeps failing to cooperate like it has most weekend days lately, I may be out of luck for another opportunity like this for a while. There’s still plenty of time to get out and go tooling around during the warmer parts of the day. But the cold mornings will soon be too cold for me to commute on the bike, even if it’s pleasantly warm by the time I finish work. At least I have a sweet bike that I’m very much looking forward to doing more traveling on next year.

Meanwhile, the Silverwing is still up for sale, though I’ve had almost no bites on it. It’s a bad time of year to try to sell a bike. Fortunately, I’ve had an offer from an auto mechanic friend in Keene, NH to store it at his shop over the winter, so I’ll only have the one bike to store here. The weather could make it tricky to ride there, and then get driven home. But I’ve been intending to put a trailer hitch on my car, and this will be a good occasion to get that done. Then I can borrow or rent a trailer and get the bike up there myself in the comfy heated car, regardless of cold temperatures or other people transporting me. I’ll try to sell the Silverwing for more money in the spring, and if my friend manages to sell it for me out of his shop, I’ll give him a commission!

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